‘A mobile phone can be an essential business tool, an expensive toy or, possibly, a life-saving device in an emergency.’ So goes the
introduction to Which?’s first ever buying guide to mobile phones, published in May 1993. Since we started reviewing phones, Nokia has been making them; its first handset went on sale in 1982. That’s why Microsoft’s recent announcement that it will complete the buyout of Nokia’s mobile division in 2014 marks the end of an era.
Nokia-branded handsets will continue to be released… for now. But that couldn’t stop us delving through our archives for reviews of the company that introduced the world to Snake, the Grande Valse ringtone and some truly innovative mobile designs.
Read on for the history of Nokia through the eyes of Which?
Nokia phone reviews – read our test lab verdicts on Nokia’s latest mobiles
1993 – first mobile phone Best Buy
‘Easy to use, has good speech quality and clear audibility. A Best Buy for occasional use’ – Which?, May 1993
Features noted in the summary include the phone’s ability to store up to ’48 memories for names and numbers’ while built-in ‘keyboard lighting’ is deemed worthy of a mention too – perfect for making roving phone calls in the dark.
1994 – analogue versus digital
‘In situations where reception is poor digital phones don’t get noisier like analogue phones. Instead they may suddenly drop out so you think you’re disconnected… this can be disconcerting; our testers generally preferred the analogue phone.’ – Which?, July 1994
It’s hard to imagine that the future of digital mobile phones wasn’t always written in the stars but when Which? looked at both the analogue Nokia 101 and digital Nokia 1011 the digital GSM handset wasn’t necessarily the one favoured. The high point of the 1011 was its ability to ‘store numbers of calls made to you’ according to our review.
1994 – sounds like a Nokia
‘Using your phone like a pager: You can send text messages of up to 160 characters between mobile phones on the same network.’ – Which?, May 1998
The first Nokia handset to feature the iconic Grande Valse ringtone – reproduced above for the classically trained musicians among you – was the Nokia 2110 – a handset also famous for embracing the GSM digital network and so helping to bring text messages into the mainstream.
1998 – say hello to Sssnake
The Nokia 6110 was the first handset to introduce Snake – a videogame that paved the way for the millions of gaming apps you will now find strewn throughout the likes of Apple’s App Store and the Google Play store.
The premise was simple – eat the dots and grow your snake perpetually longer. Like all the best concepts, however, such simplicity didn’t stop the game from becoming a hit among Nokia 6110 owners – so much so that Snake became a staple on Nokia handsets for years after.
2001 – smile, you’re on camera
‘You can take pictures and send them to your friends… if the idea grabs you’ – Which?, December 2002
Nokia helped usher in the reign of the cameraphone with the Nokia 7650, therefore ensuring that going to gigs was never quite the same ever again. The 7650 featured a 0.3-megapixel (Mp) camera – a figure dwarfed all the more when you compare it to the 41Mp camera in the latest Nokia 1020 handset.
2004 – first Nokia with touchscreen functionality
Long before the iPhone made the touchscreen essential for mobile phones, Nokia had already introduced one in its Nokia 7710 smartphone. The phone was even sold with a satellite receiver, making it one of the world’s first phones to feature satellite tracking.
Interestingly, our 2005 mobile phone guide failed to mention either function and the phone failed to land Which? Best Buy status as a result. The significance of either GPS or touchscreen was obviously much more difficult to predict back in 2004.
Where now for Nokia?
Despite unleashing first after first on to a fledgling mobile audience Nokia eventually hit hard times. The company’s failure to grasp the importance of the app-heavy operating systems created by the likes of Apple and Android led to the loss of its core user base.
Accordingly, despite the occasional critical success, Nokia’s fortunes took a downturn. Its best chance for a reprisal of its former fortunes now seems to be in the hands of its Lumia series of smartphones, which feature some of the best camera technology currently available on mobile handsets.
Now you’ve experienced our trip through the Which? Tech Time Tunnel, we want you to share Nokia memories with us. For the chance to win the new 4G-ready Lumia 625, featuring a 4.7-inch touchscreen, let us know your thoughts on the famous manufacturer in the comments section below.
Maybe your first phone was a Nokia, you were always borrowing one off a workmate to play Snake or that Grande Valse ringtone is a permanent fixture in your frontal lobe. Whatever your memories of Nokia phones are, we’d like to hear them.